"What relation is there, for example," inquired Jack, "between an oyster and a horse?"
"No immediate relation certainly, but there are intermediate links by which the two are brought together: they may be regarded, however, as the opposite extremes of the brotherhood—the two poles in the chain of existence. A horse bears even less resemblance to a turnip than to an oyster; a relationship may, nevertheless, be traced, step by step, between them, dissimilar as they are. There is the polypus, that singular product of Nature, which, regarded in one light, performs all the functions of animal life, whilst, when regarded in another, it has the ordinary attributes of a plant; does this not clearly and distinctly mark the transition from the vegetable to the animal kingdom? Again, certain species of worms blend the animal with the insect tribe, those which are covered with a horny substance unite them with the crustaceae. These approach fish on the one hand, and reptiles on the other, whilst reptiles in some species become moluscs."
"And what is a molusc?" inquired Willis.
"The term molusc is applied by naturalists to creatures which have no vertebrae, as for example, the cuttle fish and the oyster."
"I believe you, Mr. Wolston; but if I had asked Ernest or Jack, they would have told me that it was a commodore or an admiral."
"Reptiles, I was going to say, are connected at one end of the chain with moluscs by the slug, and at the other with fish by the eel. From flying-fish to birds the transition is by no means abrupt. The ostrich, whose legs are like goat's, and runs rather than flies, connects birds with quadrupeds; these again return to fish through the cetacea."
"Yes, but the interval between such creatures and man is still great."
"True; to connect the two would be a process replete with insurmountable difficulties, and only possible to creative power. The projecting snout would have to be flattened, and the features of humanity imprinted upon it—that head bent upon the ground would have to be directed upwards—that narrow breast would have to be flattened out—those legs would have to be converted into flexible arms, and those horny hoofs into nimble fingers."
"To accomplish which," remarked Frank, "God had only to say, 'Let it be so.'"
"Assuredly; and as there is nothing incongruous in Nature, as everything is admirably adapted for its purpose, as unity of design is perceptible in all things, as every effect proceeds from a cause, and becomes a cause in its turn of succeeding effects, so God has willed that there should be a chain of resemblance running through all his works, and the link that connects man with the animal kingdom—the highest type of the mammiferous race, and the nearest approach to humanity amongst the brutes—is the creature before you."
As if to illustrate this position, and prove his title to the place awarded him, the chimpanzee quietly laid hold of Mr. Wolston's straw hat and stuck it on his crispy head.
"He is, perhaps, afraid of catching cold," said Jack, thrusting a mat under his feet.
"Compare birds with quadrupeds," continued Mr. Wolston, "and you will find analogies at every step. Does the powerful and kingly eagle not resemble the noble and generous lion?—the cruel vulture, the ferocious tiger?—the kite, buzzard, and crow preying upon carrion, hyenas, jackals, and wolves? Are not falcons, hawks, and other birds used in the chase, types of foxes and dogs? Is the owl, which prowls about only at night, not a type of the cat? The cormorants and herons, that live upon fish, are they not the otters and beavers of the air? Do not peacocks, turkeys, and the common barn-door fowl bear a striking affinity to oxen, cows, sheep, and other ruminating animals?"
During these remarks, Jack's monkey, Knips, had found its way into the gallery, and, observing the newcomer, went forward to accost him as if an old friend; the latter, however, uttered a menacing cry, and was about to seize Knips with evidently no amiable design, but was prevented by the cords that bound his legs. Knips leaped upon the back of one of the boys, and there, as if on the tower of an impregnable fortress, commenced making a series of grimaces at the chimpanzee, these being the only missiles within reach that he could launch at his relation. The enemy retorted, and kept up a smart fire of like ammunition.
"It appears," remarked Mrs Wolston, "that apes are something like men: the great and the little do not readily amalgamate."
"We must make them amalgamate," said Jack, taking one of Knips's paws, whilst Ernest held that of the chimpanzee; thus they compelled them to shake hands, but with what degree of cordiality we are unable to state.
"You ought to oblige them now to take an oath of fealty," said Mrs. Wolston.
"Chimpanzee," said Jack, speaking for Knips, "I promise always to treat you in future with smiles, delicacies, and respect."
"Knips," replied the wild man of the woods, through the organs of Ernest, "I promise to have for you only the most generous intentions; to share with you the nuts I may have occasion to crack, that is, by giving you the shells and keeping the kernel; I promise, moreover, not to immolate you at the altar of my just rage, unless it is impossible for me to avoid an outburst of temper."
"Now the embrace of peace."
"Ah, madam," said Jack, "you must excuse that ceremony, their friendship is too new for such intimacy, and Knips don't much like being bitten."
"Need we other proofs," remarked Becker, when the scene between the monkeys was concluded, "that everything has been premeditated, weighed, and calculated? It was necessary for that most arid country, Arabia, that we should have a sober animal, susceptible of existing a long time without water, and capable of treading the hot sands of the desert. God has accordingly given us the camel."
"And the dromedary," remarked Ernest.
"So everywhere," continued Becker; "and add to these evidences of Divine wisdom the brilliant colors, the silken furs, the golden plumage, and the ever-varying forms, yet, in all this diversity, there is unison—a harmony. Like the various objects which a clever artist introduces into his sketch, they are placed without uniformity, but still with reference to their effect upon each other, and so to the unity of the general design."
"Therefore," remarked Ernest, "we have an animal whose skin is of stone, which it throws off annually to assume a new one—whose flesh is its tail and in its feet—whose hair is found inside in its breast—whose stomach is in its head, which, like the skin, is renewed every year, the first function of the new being to digest the old one."
Here the Pilot manifested some symptoms of incredulity.
"That is not all, Willis," continued Ernest, "the animal of which I speak carries its eggs in the interior of its body till they are hatched, and then transfers them to its tail. It has pebbles in its stomach, can throw off its limbs when they incommode it, and replace them with others more to its fancy. To finish the portrait, its eyes are placed at the tip of long flexible horns."
"Do you really mean me to believe that yarn?" inquired Willis.
"Yes, Willis, unless you intend to deny the existence of lobsters."
"Lobsters! Ah! you are talking of them, are you!"
"Have not," continued Ernest, "six thousand three hundred and sixty-two eyes been counted in one beetle? sixteen thousand in a fly? and as many as thirty-four thousand six hundred in a butterfly? Of course, facets understood."
"Supposing these facets myope or presbyte," observed Jack, "that gives seventeen thousand three hundred and twenty-five pairs of spectacles on one nose!"
"How wonderfully varied are the forms of Nature. If, from the mastodon and the fossil mammoth, to which Buffon attributes five or six times the bulk and size of the elephant, we descend to those animalculae, of which Leuwenhoek estimates that a thousand millions of them would not occupy the place of an ordinary grain of sand."
Here Willis lost all patience and left the gallery, whistling as usual, under such circumstances, the "Mariner's March."
"Malesieu has detected animals by the microscope twenty-seven times smaller than a mite. A single drop of water under this instrument assumes the aspect of a lake, peopled by an infinite multitude of living creatures."
"Therefore," observed Wolston, "it is not the great works of Nature, or those of which the organization is most perfect, that alone presents to the mind of man the unfathomable mysteries of creation; atoms become to him problems, that utterly defy the utmost efforts of his intelligence."
"Which," suggested Becker, "does not prevent us believing ourselves a well of science, nor hinder us from piling Pelion on Ossa to scale the skies."
"What becomes, in the presence of these facts, of the metaphysics and cosmogonies that have succeeded each other for two thousand years? What of all the theories, from Ptolemy to Copernicus, from Copernicus to Galileo, Descartes and his zones, Leibnitz and his monads, Wolf and his fire forces, Maupertuis and his intelligent elements, Broussais, who, in his anatomical lectures, has oftener than once shown to his pupils, on the point of his scalpel, the source of thought; what, I say, becomes of all these?"
"There is less wisdom in such vain speculation than in these simple words: 'I believe in God the Father, the Creator of all things.'"
"Worlds," says Isaiah, "are, before Him, like the dew-drops on a blade of grass."
"We are now, however, getting into the clouds," remarked Wolston; "let us return to the earth by the shortest route. What do you mean to do with the chimpanzee?"
"Why, we must cage him in some way," replied Becker; "to let him loose again would be to create fresh uneasiness for ourselves. To kill him would be almost a kind of homicide."
"Can I come in now?" inquired Willis, thrusting his head into the gallery.
"Yes, with perfect safety."
"You see, when Master Ernest begins to spin, he gets into the chapter of miracles, and forgets that we have ears."
"I cannot help seeing them sometimes though, Willis; when they are a little longer than usual, it is difficult to hide them altogether."
"Well," replied Willis, "I confess I am a bit of a fool, and as you are at a loss what to do with our friend here, I shall take him over with me to Shark's Island: there will be a pair of us there then."
"If you will undertake to be his guide and instructor, he is yours, Willis."
"What shall I call him?"
"It shall go hard with me if I do not make a gentleman of him in a month's time."
"I should like," said Frank, "if you could convert him into a tiger."
"Yes, we want a footman in livery to fetch Mrs. Wolston's carriage next time she calls for it."
"I feel highly flattered by the compliment," said Mrs. Wolston, "but fear you will not be able to turn him out entire."
"Why so, madam?"
"Where are the top boots to come from?"
THE PIONEERS—EXCURSION TO COROMANDEL—HINDOO FANCIES—A CAGED HUNTER—LOUIS XI. AND CARDINAL BALUE—A FURLONG OF NEWS—CARNAGE—THE BARONET AND HIS SEVENTEEN TIGERS—FIFTY-FOUR FEET OF CELEBRITY—STERNE'S WINDOW—PROMENADE OF THE CONSCIENCES—EMULATION AND VANITY.
When a country is released from the presence of an enemy that annoyed and harassed them, the people feel as if a weight had been taken off their shoulders; so the inhabitants of New Switzerland had breathed more freely since the capture of the chimpanzee.
The works at Falcon's Nest were completed, and the two families had taken possession of their aerial dwellings, where they were perched like a pair of rookeries within call of each other.
The confined air of towns has a tendency to plunge men into lethargy and indolence, and to precipitate the decadence of a constitution in which the seeds of disease have been sown; whilst, on the other hand, the pure air of the country braces the nerves, excites a healthy action in the system, and invigorates a shattered frame; so it was with Mr. Wolston—under the benign influences of the genial climate and the refreshing sea breeze, he gradually, but steadily, recovered health and strength.
A larger breadth of land had been cleared and fitted for receiving grain, which it was susceptible of reproducing a hundred-fold. Such is the sublime contract God has made with man, that, in exchange for his labor and skill, a single grain of wheat will produce seven or eight stalks, each bearing an ear containing fifty grains; a single grain has been known to yield twenty-eight ears, and Pliny states that Nero received a grain bearing the enormous number of three hundred and sixty ears. Strange that such a singular instance of fecundity should present itself during the domination of a man, or rather monster, who dared to wish that the Roman people had only one head, so that he might cut it off at a single blow!
Willis and the Wolstons were as yet ignorant of the extent and limits of the colony; there were two inclosed and cultivated sections, named respectively Waldeck and Prospect Hill, which they had not yet inspected. With a view to enable them to form a more accurate conception of the boundaries of the territory they inhabited, a grand excursion was decided upon that would enable them leisurely to investigate every nook and cranny of the settlement.
The storehouse was accordingly overhauled, and the ladies called in to prepare viands for the journey; they were likewise invited to furnish a supply of certain enchanted travelling bags, in which the gentlemen were often astonished to find, during their distant expeditions, a thousand and one useful things that they would never have dreamt of bringing with them of their own accord.
Becker, Wolston, Ernest, and Frank set about the construction of a vehicle on four wheels for the luggage and the ladies; they did not contemplate erecting a machine with elastic springs and gilded panels, like the Lord Mayor's state coach—their object was to produce a machine that would ease, without dislocating, the limbs of the travellers, and that would move at least more gently than a gardener's cart, loaded with hampers of greens for Covent Garden Market. It may readily be supposed that Ernest's Latin was not of much service in these operations, for even Wolston's mechanical skill was sorely tried in elaborating the design.
Fritz, Willis, and Jack had already started as pioneers of the expedition to examine the buildings, and to see that no more apes or other piratical marauders had established themselves on their premises; and, in compliance with a request made by Willis, who strongly objected to becoming a bushranger, they had gone by water. It was further arranged that, on their return, all should start together—the entire community in one cavalcade, like an army on the march.
The young ladies were as much pleased in anticipation with this journey as if the destination of the travellers had been Brighton or Ramsgate. To children of their age, change is always pleasing. Often, in consequence of a death, the collapse of a bank, the loss of a law-suit, or some dire disaster of that sort, parents have seen themselves compelled to abandon the home of their fathers, endeared to them by many gentle recollections, perhaps to embark for some far distant land; they stifle their sighs, and bid a mute farewell to each stone and each tree, familiar to them as household words; they depart with reluctance, and often turn to cast a lingering look behind at objects so dear to their memory. Not so the children; they issue from the door like a flock of caged pigeons just let loose; they sing and leap and laugh with glee; the old house has no charms for them, they are as glad to depart as their elders are wishful to stay; the trunk desires to multiply its roots on the soil, but the buds prefer to blow elsewhere—for the latter life resolves itself into the word FUTURE, and for the former into the word PAST.
Leaving Wolston, Becker, and his two sons hard at work on the carriage, let us turn to the pinnace which was now making its way along the shore under the guidance of the Pilot.
"I should like much," said Fritz, "to present Mr. and Mrs. Wolston with a couple of bear, leopard, or tiger skins."
"So should I," said Jack.
"I wish you could think of some other sort of gift," suggested Willis; "what do you say to a couple of seal or shark skins?"
"Won't do," replied both Fritz and Jack in one voice. "What objections have you to the others?"
"Well, you are in some sort consigned to my care; I should like you to return to your parents with your own skins entire."
"Then you think it is a terrific affair to kill a tiger or two? You have been accustomed to the sea, and fancy landsmen are good for nothing but shooting crows and wild-cats; that is a mistake, however; we are familiar with larger game."
"Shiver my timbers! do you call bears and tigers game?"
"I am afraid, Willis, you are a bit of a milksop."
"Avast heaving there, Master Fritz! as it is, I am a half-hanged man already, so death has now no terrors Dov me; it is the first pang that is most felt."
"Yes; but in the case of tigers, they never give you time to feel a second pang; miss your aim, and it is all over with you."
"True; and therefore I wish you would give up the project. As for myself, I would face anything with a four-pounder, but rifle practice on board ship is mostly confined to the marines; it is not that, however, I am troubled about; I am certain your worthy father would never forgive me if I countenance this project."
"You need not tell him anything about it."
"Where, then, are the skins to come from? Can you say you bought them at the furrier's? You must really hit upon some other fancy."
"But it is not a fancy, Willis, it is a necessity; it is not our own amusement we are consulting. Just imagine yourself what will happen during the excursion now being arranged. Our parents will, of course, offer their bear skins to Mr. and Mrs. Wolston; there will be refusals on the one side and entreaties on the other."
"And, as is usual in these sort of discussions," added Jack, "Mrs. Wolston will call her carriage."
"Yes," continued Fritz, "and my mother will most certainly deprive herself of a covering that is absolutely indispensable during the cold nights of this climate."
"There is reason in what you say," observed Willis, scratching his ear.
"You see, Willis, the thing ought and must be done."
"As you put it, yes; but it will take time to prepare the skins."
"They will not be ready in time for this expedition certainly, and my mother must do without her skin this journey; but it is our duty to prevent anything of the sort happening in future."
"Were I to consent to this project," said Willis, "there is still something more required."
"Why, the tigers and what's-a-names; it is necessary to find the brute before you can get its skin."
"Granted; there would be a difficulty in the case had we not here quite handy a magnificent covering of wild animals, all ready to kill or to be killed. Just steer a point to the east, Willis; there, that will do. Just beyond that bluff you see yonder, there is a low flat plain covered with brushwood and tufted with trees; on the left, this prairie is bounded by a chain of low hills, and on the right a broad river, which last we have named the St. John, because it bears some resemblance to a stream of that name in Florida; beyond this plain there is a swamp."
"And," added Jack, "behind this swamp there is a magnificent forest of cedars, peopled with the finest furs imaginable, but garnished, however, with formidable claws and rows of teeth."
"I was not aware," said Willis, "that we were within reach of such amiable neighbors."
"Oh, they cannot reach us; thanks to the conformation of that chain of hills you see yonder, there is only one pass that opens into our settlement, and that we have taken care to shut up and fortify."
"It appears then," said Willis, "that there will be no difficulty in finding the animals, but—"
"Come, Willis, no more buts; you hunt in your own way from morning till night, let us for once hunt in ours."
"I go a-hunting?"
"Yes, there you are, charging your piece just now."
"Oh, my pipe you mean; but look at the difference; mosquitoes bite human beings, they don't eat them!"
"And, you may add, their skins don't make bed-clothes. Besides, if my mother takes rheumatism or the ague, it will be you that is to blame."
"I would rather face all the tigers in Bengal and all the lions in Africa than incur such a responsibility. I will, therefore, take a part in your cruise, and if any accident happens to either of you, I shall stay in the forest till nothing is left of me but my cap and my bones. In this way I will escape all reproach in this world, and I may as well, after all, rejoin my old commander, Captain Littlestone, by this road as by any other."
In the meantime, they had reached the coast of Waldeck, and having landed, they found the outhouses and sheds that had been erected there in satisfactory order; the apes had not forgotten a battue that had once been got up for their special behoof, as not an individual was to be seen in the neighborhood. A morass of the district that had been converted into a rice plantation, promised an abundant crop; and the cotton plants, that Frank had once mistaken for flakes of snow, reared their woolly blossoms, looking for all the world like the powdered heads of our ancestors. After a slight repast, the pinnace was once more in motion, and the party steering for Prospect Hill.
"Ah," sighed Willis, "I wish we had only Sir Marmaduke Travers' cage here."
"Cage!" cried Fritz, laughing, "what, to shut up the game first and shoot it afterwards?" "No, quite the reverse: to shut up the hunters."
"Ah, you would serve us in the same way as Louis XI. served Cardinal Balue."
"I know nothing of either Louis XI. or Cardinal Balue; but the cage I speak of was an excellent invention, for all that."
"Which you would like to prove to us by caging ourselves, eh?"
"Sir Marmaduke Travers," continued Willis, "was an English gentleman, and he was travelling in Coromandel, no one knew why or for what purpose."
"For the fun of the thing, probably," suggested Jack; the English are said to be great oddities."
"At that time there happened to be a Hindoo widow somewhere in those parts. This lady was very rich, very young, very beautiful, and very fond of tormenting her admirers. And, as fate would have it, the travelling Englishman was completely taken captive by this dark beauty; and taking advantage of the hold she had obtained upon his heart, she amused herself by making him do all sorts of out of the way things. Sometimes she would bid him let his moustache grow, then she would order him to cut it off; he had to worship Brahma, adopt the fashion of the Hindoos, and had even to undergo the indignity of having his head tied up in a dirty pocket-handkerchief."
"That is to say," remarked Jack, "that the lady, not having a pug or a monkey, made Sir Marmaduke a substitute for both."
"Very likely, but still Sir Marmaduke was no fool; he was, on the contrary, a gentleman and a philosopher."
"I doubt that," said Jack.
"You are wrong, then. You have been brought up in an out of the way part of the world, and are not familiar with the usages of civilized society. When once a man has allowed the tender passion to take root in his breast, it cannot afterwards be extinguished at will; it grows and grows like an oil spot, so that what might easily have been mastered at first, makes us in time its devoted slave."
"I cannot admit," said Fritz, "that any sensible man would allow himself to be treated in the way you state."
"The wisest and bravest have often, for all that, been obliged to bend their heads to such circumstances; in fact, those only escape whose hearts have been steeled by time or adversity. Well, nothing would please the lady in one of her caprices short of Sir Marmaduke's going alone to the jungle and killing a tiger or two for her. This caused him some little uneasiness."
"I should think so," remarked Jack, "unless he had been accustomed to face the animals."
"However, the widow's hand was to be the reward of the achievement, and the thing must consequently be done. Being, however, as I have said, a bit of a philosopher, he considered with himself that if, by chance, he should perish in the attempt he would lose the widow all the same, and that he could not think of with any thing like equanimity. To extricate himself from this dilemma he sent a despatch to an enterprising friend of his, then stationed with his regiment at Calcutta, requesting his advice."
"And this friend, no doubt, sent him a couple of tigers all ready trussed?"
"No, better than that; he sent him a strong iron cage fifteen feet square, very solid. This was shipped on board a cutter commanded by Captain Littlestone, and I was entrusted with the task of erecting it on shore, whilst an express was sent off to Sir Marmaduke."
"Ah!" said Jack, "I begin to understand now."
"Well, he rigged himself in tiger-hunting costume, went and bade the lady good-bye, who coolly wished him good sport, mounted a horse, and rode off to conquer a lady who, as a proof of her affection, had so cavalierly consigned him to the tender mercies of the wild beasts."
"Why, it was dooming him to certain destruction," said Fritz.
"In the meantime the cage had been conveyed to a valley surrounded with mountains, the caves of which were known to shelter entire colonies of tigers. Here also came Sir Marmaduke. The cage was firmly embedded in the soil, the exterior was thickly studded over with sharp spikes screwed into the bars; inside were placed a table and a sofa, with crimson velvet cushions."
"A lady's boudoir in the wilderness," said Jack.
"In one corner there was a case containing a dozen bottles of pale ale, and as many of champagne; in another was a second case containing curry pies and a variety of preserved meats; in a third case were five and twenty loaded rifles, together with a complete magazine in miniature of powder and shot. On the table were sundry cases of havannahs, a box of allumettes, the last number of the Edinburgh Review, and a copy of the Times."
"What is the Times?" inquired Jack.
"It is a furlong of paper, folded up and covered with news, advertisements, and letters from the oldest inhabitant of everywhere. Leaving, then, Sir Marmaduke seated in the centre of his cage, we towards night returned to the cutter, first scattering two or three quarters of fresh beef in the vicinity of the cage."
"That should have assembled all the tigers in Coromandel," said Fritz.
"Anyhow, it brought enough. Towards midnight Sir Marmaduke could count thirty noble brutes capering in the moonlight and feasting upon the beef that had been provided for them."
"What did the Englishman do then?"
"He took aim at the most magnificent specimen of the herd and fired. No sooner had he done this than the whole pack came scampering towards the cage, thinking, doubtless, they had nothing to do but scrunch the bones of the solitary hunter. This was the signal for a regular slaughter. Sir Marmaduke discharged his rifles point blank in the noses of the animals that environed him on all sides; those who were not wounded by the balls were severely injured by the spikes of the cage in their furious efforts to seize their enemy. The howling, yelling, and fury was quite a new sensation for Sir Marmaduke; he rather enjoyed the thing whilst the excitement lasted. However, all things must have an end; when the sun appeared on the horizon the wounded retired, leaving the dead masters of the situation."
"I suppose, in the meantime," remarked Fritz, "that the amiable Hindoo was considering whether or not, under the circumstances, she should wear mourning for her defunct cavalier."
"Be that as it may, the defunct made his appearance, safe and sound, that same day, whilst the cutter stood out to sea with every vestige of the cage except the dead tigers. Shortly after, the widow was astonished to see an army of coolies marching in procession towards her door, all, like the slaves of Aladdin, heavily laden; and she was not awakened from her surprise till the master of the ceremonies had placed the following letter in her hands:
"Madam,—With this you will receive seventeen fall-grown tigers, which I have had the honour of shooting for you.
"That was a choice bijou for a lady," said Jack.
"Yes," added Fritz; "and if the ladies of Coromandel have stands in their drawing-rooms, to display the tributes to their charms, Sir Marmaduke's present afforded abundant material for adorning those of the widow."
"Well, the consequence was, that Sir Marmaduke's name rung from one end of India to the other. The feat of killing, single-handed, seventeen tigers, converted him into a hero of the first magnitude. No festival was complete without him, he was courted by the fashionables and worshipped by the mob; some enthusiasts even proposed to erect a tomb for him, that being the way they honor their great men in eastern nations."
"Every country," remarked Fritz, "has its own peculiarities in this respect. The memory of the illustrious men of Greece and Rome was perpetuated in the intrinsic merit of the works of art erected in their names. In England quantity takes the place of quality; there is said to be in London a statue of a hero disguised as Achilles, six yards in height, and perched upon a pedestal twelve yards high."
"Making in all," remarked Jack, "exactly eighteen yards of fame."
"The handsome Hindoo," continued Willis, "was proud of the feat her charms had inspired. She gloried in showing off the redoubtable tiger-slayer at her reunions, and ended in being completely fascinated herself with her former slave. The match that she had formerly sneezed at she now earnestly desired, and, as Sir Marmaduke did not declare himself so speedily as she desired, she determined to give him a little encouragement by sending one of the most inviting and most odoriferous of notes."
"Sir Marmaduke must then have considered himself one of the happiest of men," said Fritz.
"Well," continued Willis, "neither man nor woman can, in affairs of this kind, depend upon themselves for two consecutive hours. The aspirations of a whole life-time may be dispelled in five minutes, and the wishes of to-day may become the detestations of to-morrow. The new sensations awakened in Sir Marmaduke by the affair of the cage—his recollection of the ferocious brutes as they clung with expiring energy to the bars of the cage, their streaked skins streaming with blood, the fearful howling and terrific death yells, the formidable claws that were often within an inch of his face—had, somehow or other, chased the passion he had felt for the widow completely out of his breast."
"Oh, the scamp of a Travers!" said Jack, energetically.
"He began to ask himself coolly what a lady, who had made such extraordinary demands upon him before marriage, might not require him to do after; and the result of his cogitations is expressed in the following reply that he sent to the now smiling widow:—
"'Sir Marmaduke Travers is highly flattered by the charming note of the adorable daughter of Brahma; he shall gladly continue to bask in the sunshine of her smiles, out his ambition desires and will accept nothing more.'"
"Flowery and laconic," said Fritz.
"Well," inquired Willis, "was I not right in wishing to have the cage of Sir Marmaduke here?"
"Yes, but we cannot get it. We have no ingenious trend at Calcutta to send us such a machine, and furnish it with crimson-cushioned sofas and pale ale, so we shall have to rest satisfied with our own ingenuity, tact, and agility."
Fritz and Jack were justified in relying upon their own resources. They had been often sorely tried, and never had been found wanting in cases of emergency. Since the arrival of the Wolstons their courage had become almost temerity; previous to that event, they had been content to meet danger bravely when it was inevitable, and never went deliberately in search of it. Now, however, if we apply the glass of which Sterne speaks to their breasts and spy what is passing therein, we shall fad that an imperious desire to become heroes had taken possession of their inward souls—a determination to make themselves conspicuous at all hazards was burning within them; that, in fact, they were courting the admiration of the new audience that Providence had sent to the colony, the praise of which found more favor in their hearts than the paternal admonitions.
This was far from being commendable; but, although emulation and vanity have some features in common, still they must not be confounded: the former consists in generous efforts to equal or surpass some one in something praiseworthy; the second is a kind of self-love, that seeks to purchase respect or flattery at no matter what cost;—the one is a vice, the other a virtue.
Fritz and Jack were not actuated by vanity; they were urged on by their impulses, without weighing the circumstances that gave them rise; and indeed they were not even conscious of being more desirous of renown now than they had been hitherto.
The temperament of Ernest and Frank was of another kind. Their natures were much less excitable, and it did not appear that the recent arrivals had altered their outward demeanor in the slightest degree; they continued calm, staid, and reflective, as they had ever been.
All four were a singular mixture of the child and the man—knowing many things that young people are ignorant of, they were yet almost totally unacquainted with the ordinary attributes of social life—unsophisticated and naive to an extreme degree, they would have appeared in a fashionable drawing-room downright fools. On the other hand, they possessed great clearness of perception, presence of mind in danger, promptitude in action, and the utmost coolness in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles—qualities that would have utterly confounded the young men who shine in the saloons of Europe, whose chief merit often consists in their being familiar with the unmeaning conventionalisms of fashionable life.
At Prospect Hill they found the outhouses and plantations in much the same position as at Waldeck. Here the crimson flowers of the caper plant, the white flowers of the tea plant, and the rich blossoms of the clove tree, perfumed the air and promised a fragrant harvest. This was a charming caravansary, all ready with its smiles to welcome the illustrious colonists as soon as they presented themselves.
These points being settled to the satisfaction of the three pioneers, a sheep was taken on board the pinnace at the request of Willis—who seemed to have taken a violent fancy for mutton chops—and they set sail towards the east.
In the first instance they made for a projecting head-land that seemed to bar their progress in that direction, and, much to the astonishment of the Pilot, they entered a cavern that formed the entrance to a natural tunnel. This, besides being an interesting feature in the coast scenery, was one of the treasures of the colony, for it contained vast quantities of edible birds' nests, so much prized by the Chinese. The voyagers did not, however, tarry here; these were not the objects they were now in search of. Nautilus Bay and the Bay of Pearls were likewise traversed unheeded, nor could the attractive banks of the St. John, fringed with verdant foliage, divert them from the project they had in contemplation.
Wise men, when they indulge in folly, are often more foolish than real fools; so it was with Willis: now that he had joined in the scheme, he evinced more ardor in its execution than the young men themselves. He said that it would not be enough to capture skins for Mr. and Mrs. Wolston, they must also capture one a-piece for Mary and Sophia likewise, and talked as if the adventure of Sir Marmaduke and his seventeen tigers had been a bagatelle.
Some hours before dark they landed at a spot well known to both Fritz and Jack; it was a place where Becker and his sons had some time before been engaged in deadly conflict with a herd of lions, and where one of their dogs had fallen a victim to the enraged monarchs of the forest.
"My plan," said Willis, "is to kill the sheep and place the quarters on the shore, just as bait is thrown into the water to bring the fish within the net."
"A reminiscence of Sir Marmaduke," said Jack.
"Then," continued Willis, "we shall light a fire to take the place of the sun, who is about to retire for the night. This done, I propose that we should return to the pinnace, keep the mutton within rifle range, and riddle the skins that come to feast upon it."
After some opposition on the part of Fritz and Jack, who preferred to encounter their antagonists on more equal terms, the proposal of Willis was ultimately agreed to.
ON THE WATCH—FECUNDITY OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS—LATEST NEWS FROM THE MOON—A DEATH-KNELL EVERY SECOND—THE INCONVENIENCES OF BEING TOO NEAR THE SUN—NARCOTICS—WILLIS CONTRALTO—HUNTING TURNED UPSIDE DOWN—ELECTRIC CLOUDS—PARTIALITIES OF LIGHTNING—BELLS AND BELL-RINGERS—CONDUCTING RODS—THE RETURN—THE TWO SISTERS—TOBY BECOMES A DRAGOMAN.
As is usual in tropical climates, a blazing hot day was succeeded by an intensely dark night. The fire that the hunters had made on shore cast a lurid glare on the prominent objects round about. The flames, as they fitfully lit up the landscape into that dim distinctness termed by artists the chiar oscuro, made the bushes and trunks of trees appear like monsters issuing stealthily from the forest that lined the background. There seemed to be some attraction, however, elsewhere for the real monsters, not a single wild beast having as yet appeared on the scene.
The two young men were eagerly straining their eyes from the stern of the pinnace, whilst the dogs kept diligently wagging their tails in expectation of a signal for the onset. The position of Willis could be ascertained now and then by an eye of fire, which opened and shut as he inhaled or exhaled the fumes of his Maryland. The ripple beat gently on the sea-line of the boat, which oscillated with the regularity and softness of a cradle.
"It is always so," said Jack, impatiently; "if we don't want wild beasts, there are shoals of them to be seen; but if we do want them, then they are all off to their dens."
"Perhaps, there are none now," suggested Willis.
"Say rather," observed Fritz, "that there ought to be thousands; for on the one hand they multiply rapidly, and on the other there is no one to destroy them. Spaniards once left a few cattle on St. Domingo, and they increased at such a rate, that the island very soon would not have been able to support them, had they not been kept down by constant slaughter."
"Besides," remarked Jack, "the bovine race reproduce themselves more slowly than other animals; a single sow, according to a calculation made by Vauban, if allowed to live eleven years, would produce six millions of pigs."
"What a cargo of legs of pork and sides of bacon!" exclaimed Willis, laughing.
"Then fish; there are more than a hundred and sixty thousand eggs in a single carp. A sturgeon contains a million four hundred and sixty-seven thousand eight hundred and fifty, whilst in some codfish the number exceeds nine millions."
"Oh, you need not favor us with the 'Mariner's March,' Willis; what my brother says is perfectly correct."
"What, then, do these shoals of creatures live upon?"
"The big ones upon the little ones; fish devour each other."
"A beautiful harmony of Nature," remarked Fritz drily.
"Then plants," continued Jack, "are still more prolific than animals. Some trees can produce as many of their kind as they have branches, or even leaves. An elm tree, twelve years old, yields sometimes five hundred thousand pods; and, by the way, Willis, to encourage you in carrying on the war against the mosquitoes, a single stalk of tobacco produces four thousand seeds."
"The leaves, however, are of more use to me than the seeds," replied Willis.
"This admirable proportion between the productiveness of the two kingdoms demonstrates the far-seeing wisdom of Providence. If the power of multiplication in vegetables had been less considerable, the fields, gardens, and prairies would have been deserts, with only a plant here and there to hide the nakedness of the land. Had God permitted animals to multiply in excess of plants, the entire vegetation would soon have been devoured, and then the animals themselves would of necessity have ceased to exist."
"How is it, then," inquired Willis, "with this continual multiplication always going on, the inhabitants of land and sea do not get over-crowded?"
"Why, as regards man, for example, if thirteen or fourteen human beings are born within a given period, death removes ten or eleven others; but though this leaves a regular increase, still the population of the globe always continues about the same."
"It may be so, Master Jack, but when I was a little boy at school, I generally came in for a whipping, if I made out two and two to be anything else than four."
"And served you right too, Willis; but if the human family did not continually increase, if the number of deaths exceeded continually that of the births, at the end of a few centuries the world would be unpeopled."
"Very good; but if, on the other hand, there is a continual increase, how can the population continue the same?"
"Because the increase supposes a normal state; that is to say, the births are only estimated as compared with deaths from disease or old age. But then there are shipwrecks, inundations, plagues, and war, which sometimes exterminate entire communities at one fell swoop. Then whole nations die out and give place to the redundant populations of others; phenomena now observed in the cases of the aborigines of Australia and America."
"No signs of furs yet," cried Fritz, who was every now and then levelling his rifle at the phantoms on shore.
"We need not dread," continued Jack, "ever being hustled or jostled on the earth; life will fail us before space. There are now eight hundred millions of human beings in existence, and, according to the most moderate computation, room enough for twice that number. As it is, the most fertile sections of the earth are not the most populous; there are four hundred millions in Asia, sixty millions in Africa, forty in America, two hundred and thirty in Europe, and only seventy millions in the islands and continent of Oceanica!"
"To which," remarked Fritz, "you may add the eleven inhabitants of New Switzerland."
"Assuming, then, this calculation to be nearly accurate, though authorities vary materially in their computations of the earth's inhabitants, and regarding it in connexion with the average duration of human life, a thousand millions of mortals must perish in thirty-three years; to descend to detail, thirty millions every year, three thousand four hundred every hour, sixty every minute, or ONE EVERY SECOND."
"Aye," remarked Willis, "we are here to-day and gone to-morrow."
"Suppose, then, that the population of the earth were twice as great, cultivation would be extended, territories that are now lying waste would be teeming with life and covered with fertile fields, but the same beautiful equilibrium would be maintained."
"And the inhabitants of the planets," said Fritz, "what are they about?"
"What planets do you mean?" inquired Willis.
"Well, all in general; the moon, for example, in particular."
"The moon," replied Jack, "has, in the first place, no atmosphere. This we know, because the rays of the stars passing behind her are not, in the slightest degree, refracted; and this proves that neither men, nor animals, nor vegetables of any kind, are to be found in that planet, for they could not exist without air."
"That should settle the question," remarked Willis.
"Yes," remarked Fritz; "but some theorists, nevertheless, insist that there may be living creatures in the moon, for all that—of course, differently constituted from the inhabitants of our earth, and susceptible of existing without air. There is, however, no evidence of any kind to support such a theory; it is a mere fancy, the dream of an imaginative brain. Upon the same grounds, it may be argued, that the interior of the earth is inhabited, and that elves and gnomes are possible beings. Besides, the telescope has been brought to so high a degree of perfection, that objects the size of a house can now be detected in the moon."
"It seems, I am afraid," remarked Jack, who, like his brother, was getting annoyed by the phantasmagoria on shore, "that we were about as well supplied with wild beasts here as they are with men in the planets."
"In speaking of the moon, however," continued Fritz, "I do not imply all the planets; for, certain as we are that the moon has no atmosphere, so we are equally certain that some of the planets possess that attribute. Still there are other circumstances that render the notion of their being inhabited by beings like ourselves exceedingly improbable. Mercury, for example, is so embarrassed by the solar rays, that lead must always be in a state of fusion, and water, if not reduced to a state of vapor, will be hot enough to boil the fish that are in it. Uranus, at the other extremity of the system, receives four hundred times less heat and light than we do, consequently neither water nor any thing else can exist there in a liquid state; what is fluid on our earth must be frozen up into a solid mass. Good, I declare my brother has fallen asleep!"
"It is very—interesting—however," said Willis, making ineffectual efforts to smother a yawn.
"The same difficulty with comets; there must have been some very urgent necessity for human beings in order to have peopled them. When they pass the perihelion—"
"The what?" inquired Willis.
"The point where they approach nearest the sun—when they pass the perihelion, I was going to say, the heat they endure must be terrific; when on the other hand, at their extreme distance from that body, the cold must be intense. The comet of 1680 did not approach within five thousand myriametres of the sun."
"Friends coming within that distance of each other should at least shake hands," said Willis.
"Still, even at that distance, the heat, according to Newton, must be like red-hot iron, and if constituted like our earth, when heated to that degree, must take fifty thousand years to cool."
"Fifty thousand years!" said Willis, yawning from ear to ear.
"The central position between these extremes, which would either congeal our earth into a mass of ice or burn it up into a heap of cinders, is therefore the most congenial to such beings as ourselves. Whence I conclude—"
Here the crimson flashes of Willis's pipe, which had been gradually diminishing in brilliance suddenly ceased; contralto notes issued from the profundities of his breast, and it became evident to the orator that all his audience were sound asleep.
"Whence I conclude," said Fritz, addressing himself, "that my orations must be somewhat soporiferous."
Being thus left alone to keep a look-out on shore, his thoughts gradually receded within his own breast, where all was rose-colored and smiling, for at his age rust has not had time to corrupt, nor moths to eat away. And it was not long before he himself, like his two companions, was fast locked in the arms of sleep.
How long this state of things lasted the chronicle saith not; but the three sleepers were eventually awakened by a simultaneous howl of the dogs. They were instantly on their feet, with their rifles levelled.
It was too late; day had broken, and there was light enough to convince them that nothing was to be seen. The sheep's quarters had, however, entirely disappeared, and they had the satisfaction of knowing that they had politely given the denizens of the forest a feast gratis.
"Ah, they shall pay us for it yet," said Jack.
"This is a case of the hunters being caught instead of the game," remarked Fritz.
"The poor sheep! If Ernest had been here, he would have erected a monument to its memory."
"I doubt that; epitaphs are generally made rather to please the living than to compliment the defunct. But, Willis, we must deprive you of your office of huntsman in chief—I shall go into the forest and revenge this insult."
"I have no objection to abdicate the office of huntsman, but must retain that of admiral, in which capacity I announce to you that there will be a storm presently, and that we shall just have time to make Rockhouse before it overtakes us."
"That is rather a reason for our remaining where we are."
"We have come for skins, and skins we must have."
"Besides, we are two to one, and in all constitutional governments the majority rules."
"Have you both made up your minds?" inquired Willis.
"Yes, we are quite decided."
"In that case," said Willis, "let us hoist the anchor and be off home."
"Home! but we are determined to have the skins first."
"No, you are not," said Willis; "I know you better than you know yourselves. You are both brave fellows, but I know you would not, for all the skins in the world, have your good mother suppose that you were buffeted about by the waves in a storm."
"True; up with the anchor, Willis," said Fritz.
"Be it so," said Jack, shaking his fist menacingly at the silent forest, "but we shall lose nothing by waiting."
The sailor had not erred in his calculations, for they had scarcely unfurled the sail before they heard the distant rumbling of the storm. As soon as the first flash of lightning shot across the sky, Jack put his forefinger of one hand on the wrist of the other, and began counting one—two—three.
"Do you feel feverish?" inquired Willis.
"No, not personally," replied Jack; "I am feeling the pulse of the storm—twenty-four—twenty-five—twenty-six—it is a mile off."
"Aye! how do you make that out?"
"Very easily; you recollect Ernest telling us that light travelled so rapidly, that the time it occupied in passing from one point to another of the earth's surface was scarcely perceptible to our senses?"
"Yes, but I thought he was spinning a yarn at the time."
"You were wrong, Willis; he likewise told us that sound travels at the rate of four hundred yards in a second."
"Have patience, Willis! When the lightning flashes, the electric spark is discharged, is it not?"
"Well, I was never high enough aloft to see."
"But others have been; Newton and Franklin have seen it. Now, if the sound reaches our ears a second after the flash, it has travelled four hundred yards. If we hear it twelve or thirteen seconds after, it has travelled twelve or thirteen times four hundred yards, or about half a mile, and so on."
"But what has that to do with your pulse?"
"In the first place, I am in perfect health, am I not?"
"I hope so, Master Jack."
"Then when our systems are in good order, the pulse, keeping fractions out of view, beats once in every second; and consequently, though we do not always carry a watch, we always have our arteries about us, and may therefore always reckon time."
"Now I understand."
"Ah! then we are to escape this time without the 'Mariner's March.'"
"It appears, Master Jack, that you have turned philosopher as well as your brothers. Can you tell me what causes lightning?"
"Yes, I can, Willis. You must know, in the first place, that all the layers of the atmosphere are, more or less, charged with electricity."
"Ask him how," said Fritz drily.
"Ah, you hope to puzzle me," replied Jack, "but thanks to Mr. Wolston, I am too well up in physics to be easily driven off my perch, and therefore may safely take my turn in philosophising."
"Well, we are listening."
"The air, by means of the vapor it contains, absorbs electricity from terrestrial bodies, and so becomes a sort of reservoir of this invisible fluid. All chemical combinations evolve electricity, the air collects it and stores it up in the clouds. There, worshipful brother, your question is answered."
"Good, go on."
"Well, Willis, you must know, in the second place, the clouds are very good fellows, and share with each other the good things they possess. When one cloud meets another, the one over-supplied with this fluid and the other in its normal state, there is an immediate interchange of courtesies, the negative electricity of the one is exchanged for the positive of the other."
"There does not appear, however, to be much generosity in this transaction, since the surcharged cloud does not cede its superfluous abundance without a consideration."
"It is very rarely that philanthropy amongst us goes much further," remarked Fritz.
"No, everybody is not like Willis," rejoined Jack, "who acts like a prince, and gives legs of mutton gratis to hyenas and tigers. The discharges of electricity from one cloud to another are the flashes of lightning, and it is to be observed that the thunder is nothing more than the noise made by the fluid rushing through the air."
"What, then, is the thunderbolt?"
"There is no such thing as what is popularly understood by the term thunderbolt. The lightning itself, however, often does mischief. This happens when the discharge, instead of being between two clouds in the air, takes place between a cloud and the ground—a cloud surcharged with electricity understood. Then all intervening objects are struck by the fluid."
"There, however, you are wrong," said Fritz. "All objects are not struck; on the contrary, the fluid avoids some things and searches out others, even moving in a zig-zag direction to manifest these caprices; it often discharges itself on or into hard substances, and passes by those which are soft or feeble."
"I might say this arose from a sentiment of generosity," added Jack, "but I have other reasons to assign."
"So much the better," said Fritz, "as I should scarcely be satisfied with the first."
"Well," continued Jack, "lightning has its likings and dislikings."
"Like men and women," suggested Willis.
"It has a partiality for metal."
"An affection that is not returned, however," observed Fritz.
"If the fluid enters a room, for example, it runs along the bell wires, inspects the works of the clock, and sometimes has the audacity to pounce upon the money in your purse, even though a policeman should happen to be in the kitchen at the time."
"Perhaps," remarked Willis, "it is Socialist or Red Republican in its notions."
"It does not, however, patronise war," replied Jack; "I once heard of it having melted a sword and left the scabbard intact."
"That, to say the least of it, is improbable," remarked Fritz. "The hilt, or even the point, might have been fused; but even supposing the electric fluid to have been capable of such flagrant preference, the scabbard could not have held molten metal without being itself consumed."
"Aye," remarked Willis, "there are plenty of non-sensical stories of that kind in circulation, because nobody takes the trouble to test their truth. Still, according to your own account, a man or woman runs no danger from the lightning."
"I beg your pardon there, Willis; the electric fluid does not go out of its way to attack a human being, but if one should-happen to be in its way, it does not take time to request that individual to stand aside, it simply passes through him, and leaves him or her, as the case may be, a coagulated mass of inanimate tissues."
"What a variety of ways there are of getting out of the world!" said Willis lugubriously.
"Again," continued Jack, "anything that happens to be in the vicinity of the clouds when this interchange of courtesies is going on, is apt to draw the storm upon itself, hence the continual war that is carried on between the lightning and the steeples."
"Something like an individual coming within range of a cloud of mosquitoes," suggested Willis.
"A learned German—one of us," said the scapegrace, laughing, "calculated, in 1783, that in the space of thirty-three years there had been, to his own knowledge, three hundred and eighty-six spires struck, and a hundred and twenty bell-ringers killed by lightning, without reckoning a much larger number wounded."
"And yet," remarked Willis, "I never heard of an insurance against accidents by lightning."
"There are plenty of them, however, in Roman Catholic countries," said Fritz. "Every village has one, and the charge is almost nominal."
"How, then, do these companies make it pay?"
"They find it answer somehow, and they never collapse."
"Then everybody ought to insure."
"Yes, but there are some obstinate people who do not see the good of it."
"If my life had not already been forfeited, I should insure it. But how is it done?"
"Well, you have only to go into a church, fall down on your knees before the priest, he will make you invulnerable by a sign of the cross; then, come storms that pulverize the body or crush the mind, you are perfectly safe."
"Ah! that is the way you insure your lives, is it, trusting to the priests rather than to Providence? For my own part, I should prefer a policy of insurance—that is to say, if my life were of any value."
"Next to steeples," continued Jack, "come tall trees, such as poplars and pines. Should you ever be caught by a storm in the open country, Willis, never take shelter under a tree; face the storm bravely, and submit to be deluged by the rain. Dread even bushes, if they are isolated. An entire forest is less dangerous than a single reed when it stands alone."
"But you forget, brother, that when a man stands alone he is quite as prominent an object as the trunk of a tree four or five feet high, particularly in an open plain."
"Quite so. It is therefore advisable, when severe storms are close upon us, to lie down flat on the ground."
"Suppose," remarked Fritz, smiling, "a brigade of soldiers on the march suddenly to collapse in this way, as if before a discharge of grape."
"And why not? If it is done in the case of grape-shot, why may it not be done when the artillery is a thousand times more effective?"
"Well, I suspect it would rather astonish the commanding officer, that is all."
"Then, Willis," continued Jack, "you must not run during a storm, because the air you put in motion by so doing may draw the electricity into the current."
"Do the conductors not prevent the lightning from doing harm?"
"Yes, but you cannot carry one of them on your hat. These rods are only useful in protecting buildings, and then to nothing more than double the area of their length; it is for this last reason that roofs of public buildings have them projecting in all directions."
"They are a sort of trap set for the lightning, are they not?"
"Yes, and into which it is pretty sure to fall. Franklin, of whom I spoke just now, was the first to suggest that bars of steel would draw lightning out of a cloud surcharged with electricity."
"What becomes of it when it is caught?"
"Keeping in view its partiality for bell-pulls, a wire is attached to the rod down which the unconscious fluid glides."
"Like a powder-monkey from the main-top."
"Exactly; till it enters a well, and there it is left at the bottom in company with Truth."
A practical storm had begun to mix itself up with the theory as developed by Jack, but not before they had very nearly reached their destination, where they were waited for with the greatest anxiety.
No sooner had they landed than Sophia ran to meet Willis, who was advancing with Jack.
"Ah, sweetheart," she said, "Susan has been so uneasy about you."
"You are a good girl, Miss Soph—Susan."
"Oh, if you only knew how frightened we have been!"
"What, do you admit fear to be one of your accomplishments, Miss Sophia?" inquired Jack.
"Certainly, when others are concerned, Master Jack. But, by the way, do you recollect the chimpanzee?"
"Yes, what about the rascal?"
"Oh, I must not tell you, mamma would call me a chatterbox; you will know by-and-by."
In the meanwhile Mary, on her side, was congratulating Toby, who kept scampering between herself and Fritz, at one moment receiving the caresses of the one and at the next of the other, with every demonstration of joy. This had become an established mode of communication between the young people when Fritz arrived from a lengthened ramble; the intelligent, brute, in point of fact, had assumed the office of dragoman.
"Ah, ah, Becker, glad to see you again," said Willis. "Your sons are fountains of knowledge, whilst I am—"
"A very worthy fellow, Willis, and I know it," replied Becker, shaking him heartily by the hand.
MAN PROPOSES, BUT GOD DISPOSES—THE CHOICE OF A PROFESSION—CONQUEROR—ORATOR—ASTRONOMER—COMPOSER—PAINTER—POET—VILLAGE CURATE—THE KAFIRS—OCCUPATIONS OF WOMEN—THE ALPHA AND OMEGA OF THE SEA.
To the storm succeeded one of those diluvian showers that have already been described. Rain being merely a result of evaporation, it was evident that sea and land in those climates must perspire at an enormous rate to effect such cataclysms. In consequence of this deluge, the proposed excursion was indefinitely postponed. The provisions, the marvellous kits, the waggon, were all ready; but Nature, as often happens under such circumstances, had assumed a menacing attitude, and for the present forbade the execution of the project.
A sort of vague sadness, that generally accompanies a gloomy atmosphere, weighed upon the spirits of the colonists. Recollections of the Nelson and her sudden disappearance thrust themselves more vividly than ever upon their memory; and Willis was observed to throw his sou'-wester unconsciously on the ground—a proof that remembrances of the past occupied his thoughts.
One of the ladies was occupied in the needful domestic operations of the household, whilst the other sat with a stocking on her left arm, busily occupied in repairing the ravages of tear and wear upon that useful though humble garment. The two young ladies spun, as used to do the great ladies of the court of King Alfred, and as Hercules himself is said to have done when he changed his club and lion's skin for a spindle and distaff with the Queen of Lybia; Jack was apparently sketching, Fritz had a collection of hunting apparatus before him, and the other two young men, each with a book, were deeply immersed in study.
This state of things was by no means cheerful, and Wolston determined to break up the monotony by introducing a subject of conversation likely to interest them all, the old as well as the young.
"By the way, gentlemen," said he, "it occurs to me that you have not yet thought of selecting a profession; your future career seems at present somewhat obscure."
"What would you have?" inquired Jack; "there is no use for lawyers and judges in our colony, except to try plundering monkeys or protect jackal orphans."
"True; but suppose you were to find yourselves, by some chance, again in the great world, there it is necessary to possess a qualification of some kind; a blacksmith or a carpenter, expert in his handicraft, has a better chance of acquiring wealth and position than a man without a profession, however great his talents may be; an idler is a mere clog in the social machine, and is often thrust aside to browse in a corner with monks and donkeys."
"But to acquire a profession, is not instruction and practice necessary?"
"Certainly; it is impossible to become a proficient in any art or science by mere study alone; but before sowing a field, what is done?"
"It is ploughed and manured."
"And should there be only a few seeds?"
"We can sow what we have, and reserve the harvest till next season. By economising each crop in this way, we shall soon have seeds enough to cover any extent of land."
"May I request you, Master Ernest, to draw a conclusion from that as regards sowing the seeds of a future career?"
"I would infer, from your suggestion, that we might adapt ourselves for such and such a profession by preparing our minds to receive instruction in it, and we might also avail ourselves in the meantime of such sources of information regarding it as are at present open to us. The physician in prospective, for example, might make himself familiar with the medical properties of such plants as are within his reach; he might likewise examine the bones of an ape, and thus, by analogy, become acquainted with the framework of the human body. The would-be lawyer might, in the same way, avail himself of the library to obtain an insight into those social mysteries that bind men in communities and necessitate human laws for the preservation of peace and order. Thus, by directing our thoughts into one line of study, we may form a basis upon which the superstructure may be easily erected, and the necessary academical degrees or sanction of the university obtained."
"And, when you see this, why not adopt so commendable a course?"
"Because we may probably be destined to remain here, where, according to Jack, the learned professions, at least, are not likely to be much in demand."
"The study of a particular science or art has charms in itself, which amply compensate the student for his labor. But, even admitting you do not return to the Old World, you forget that it is your intention to colonise this territory."
"It seems, however, that God has willed it otherwise."
"What God does not will in one way, he may bring about in another. What reason have you for supposing that the Nelson may not return with colonists?"
"It will be from the other world then," said Willis.
"Yes, from the other world," replied Jack, "but not in the sense you imply."
"Besides, should the Nelson not reappear, that is no reason why another accident may not drive another ship upon the coast that will be more fortunate; what has happened to-day may surely happen again to-morrow. And in the event of colonists arriving, will there not be sick to cure, boundaries to determine, differences of opinion to decide, and opposing claims to adjudge."
"Certainly, Mr. Wolston."
"Well, admitting these necessities, what profession will each of you select? Let us begin with you, Master Fritz."
"The career," replied Fritz, "that would be most congenial to my taste is that of a conqueror."
"Yes; Alexander, Scipio, Timour the Tartar, and Gengis Khan are the sort of men I should like to resemble. They have made a tolerable figure in the world, and I should have no objection to follow in their footsteps."
"But you forget that their footsteps are marked with tears, disasters, terror, and bloodshed."
"These are indispensable."
"Once, when a great commander was asked the same question, he replied, that you cannot make omelets without breaking eggs."
"Yes," remarked Becker, "but if you had read the anecdote entire, you would have seen that he was asked in return, 'What use there was for so many omelets.'"
"Added to which," continued Wolston, "that is not a normal career; there is no diploma required for it; it is an accident arising out of adventitious circumstances, sometimes fostered by ambition, but no course of study can produce a conqueror."
"What, then, is the use of military schools?"
"They are, to the best of my knowledge, instituted for rearing defenders for one's country, and not with a view to the subjugation of another's."
"My poor Fritz," said Mrs. Becker laughing, "I hope when you conquer half the world, you will find an occupation for your mother more in consonance with your dignity than mending your stockings."
"Then, again," continued Wolston, "war cannot be waged by a single individual."
"There must be an enemy somewhere," suggested Willis.
"The difficulty does not, however, lie there," observed Jack; "for, if we have no enemies, it is easy enough to make them."
"There must, at all events, be armies, magazines, and a treasury—or eggs, as the great commander in question hinted."
"True," replied Fritz; "but there is the same difficulty as regards all professions; there can be no barristers without briefs, no physicians without patients."
"You will admit, however, that clients and patients are not so rare as hundreds of thousands of armed men and millions of money."
"Brother," said Jack, "your cavalry are routed and your infantry outflanked."
"If you are determined to be a conqueror, let it be by the pen rather than by the sword—or, what do you say to oratory? It is not easier, perhaps, but, at all events, eloquence is not denied to ordinary mortals. You will not then, to be sure, rank with the Hannibals, the Tamerlanes, or the Caesars; but you may attain a place with Demosthenes, who was more dreaded by Philip of Macedon than an army of soldiers."
"Or Cicero," remarked Becker, "who preserved his country from the rapacity of Cataline."
"Or Peter the Hermit," remarked Frank, "who by his eloquence roused Europe against the Saracens."
"Or Bossuet," added Wolston, "and then you may venture to assert in the face of kings that God alone is Great, should they, like Louis XIV., assume the sun as an emblem, and adopt such a silly scroll as 'Nec pluribus impar.'"
"Bossuet, Peter the Hermit, Cicero, and Demosthenes, are not so bad, after all, as a last resource," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "and I would recommend you to enrol yourself in that list of conquerors, Master Fritz."
"The more especially," observed Jack, "as you have no impediment in your voice, and would not have to undergo a course of pebbles like Demosthenes."
"So far as that goes, Jack," replied Fritz, "you would possess a like advantage for the profession as myself; but I will take time to reflect." Then, turning towards his mother, he said, "Conqueror or Jack Pudding, mother, you shall always find me a dutiful son."
His mother was more gratified by this expression of attachment than she would have been had he laid at her feet the four thousand golden spurs found, in 1302, on the field of Courtray.
"And now, Ernest, what profession do you intend to adopt? what is your dream of the future?"
"I, Mr. Wolston! Well, having no taste for artillery, brilliant charges, blood-stained ruins, and the other agremens of war, I cannot be a hero. Do you know when I feel most happy?"
"No, let us hear."
"It is towards evening, when I am reposing tranquilly on the banks of the Jackal."
"Ah, I thought so," cried Jack; "no position so congenial to the true philosopher as the horizontal."
"When the sun," continued Ernest, gravely, "is retiring behind the forest of cedars that bounds the horizon; when the palms, the mangoes, and gum trees, mass their verdure in distinct and isolated groups; when nature is making herself heard in a thousand melodious voices; when the hum of the insect is ringing in my ears, and the breeze is gently murmuring through the foliage; when thousands of birds are fluttering from grove to grove, sometimes breaking with their wings the smooth surface of the river; when the fish, leaping out of their own element, reflect for an instant from their silvery scales the departing rays of the sun; when the sea, stretching away like a vast plain of boundless space, loses itself in the distance, then my eyes and thoughts are sometimes turned upwards towards the azure of the firmament, and sometimes towards the objects around me, and I feel as if my mind were in search of something which has hitherto eluded its grasp, but which it is sure of eventually finding. Under these circumstances, I assure you, I would not exchange the moss on which I sat for the greatest throne in Christendom."
"But surely you do not call such a poetical exordium a profession?" remarked Becker.
"It must be admitted," said Wolston, "that the sun and trees have their uses, especially when the one protects us from the other; the sun, for example, dries up the moisture that falls from the trees, and the trees shelter us from the burning rays of the sun. Still, I am at a loss myself to connect these things with a profession in a social point of view."
"What would you have thought," inquired Ernest, "if you had seen Newton and Kepler gazing at the sky, before the one had determined the movements of the celestial bodies, and the other the laws of gravitation? What would you have thought of Parmentier passing hours and days in manipulating a rough-looking bulb, that possessed no kind of value in the eyes of the vulgar, but which afterwards, as the potato, became the chief food of two-thirds of the population of Europe? What would you think of Jenner, with his finger on his brow, searching for a means of preserving humanity from the scourge of the small-pox?"
"But these men had an object in view."
"Jenner, yes; but not the other two. They thought, studied, contemplated, and reflected, satisfied that one day their thoughts, calculations, and reflections would aid in disclosing some mystery of Nature; but it would have perplexed them sorely to have named beforehand the nature and scope of their discoveries."
"According to you, then," said Jack, "there could not be a more dignified profession than that of the scarecrow. The greatest dunderhead in Christendom might simply, by going a star-gazing, pass himself off as an adept in the occult sciences, and claim the right of being a benefactor of mankind in embryo."
"At all events," replied Ernest, "you will admit that, so long as I am ready to bear my share of the common burdens, and take my part in providing for the common wants, and in warding of the common dangers, it is immaterial whether I occupy my leisure hours in reflection or in rifle practice."
"Well," said Jack, "when you have made some discovery that will enrol your name with Descartes, Huygens, Cassini, and such gentlemen, you will do us the honor of letting us know."
"With the greatest pleasure."
"It is a pity that Herschell has invented the telescope: he might have left you a chance for the glory of that invention."
"If I have not discovered a new star, brother, I discovered long ago that you would never be one."
"Well, I hope not; their temperature is too unequal for me—they are either freezing or boiling: at least, so said Fritz the other day, whilst we were—all, what were we doing, Willis?"
"We were supposed to be hunting."
"Ah, so we were."
"Now, Master Jack, it is your turn to enlighten us as to your future career."
"It is quite clear, Mr. Wolston, that, since my brothers are to be so illustrious, I cannot be an ordinary mortal; the honor of the family is concerned, and must be consulted. I am, therefore, resolved to become either a great composer, like Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven; a renowned painter, like Titian, Carrache, or Veronese; or a great poet, like Homer, Virgil, Shakspeare, Dante, Milton, Goethe, and Racine."
"That is to say," remarked Mrs. Wolston, "that you are resolved to be a great something or other."
"Decidedly, madam; on reflection, however, as I value my eyesight, I must except Homer and Milton."
"But have you not determined to which of the muses you will throw the handkerchief?"
"I thought of music at first. It must be a grand thing, said I to myself, that can charm, delight, and draw tears from the eyes of the multitude—that can inspire faith, courage, patriotism, devotion and energy, and that, too, by means of little black dots with tails, interspersed with quavers, crotchets, sharps and flats."
"Have you composed a sonata yet?"
"No, madam; I was going to do so, but it occurred to me that I should require an orchestra to play it."
"And not having that, you abandoned the idea?"
"Exactly, madam. I then turned to poetry. That is an art fit for the gods; it puts you on a level with kings, and makes you in history even more illustrious than them. You ascend the capitol, and there you are crowned with laurel, like the hero of a hundred fights."
"What is the subject of your principal work in this line?"
"Well, madam, I once finished a verse, and was going on with a second, but, somehow or other, I could not get the words to rhyme."
"Then it occurred to you that you had neither a printer nor readers, and you broke your lyre?"
"I was about to reproach you, Master Jack," said Wolston, "for undertaking too many things at once; but I see the ranks are beginning to thin."
"Beautiful as poetry may be," continued Jack, one gets tired of reading and re-reading one's own effusions."
"It is even often intensely insipid the very first time," remarked Mrs. Wolston.
"There still remains painting," continued Jack. "Painting is vastly superior to either music or poetry. In the first place, it requires no interpreter between itself and the public;—what, for example, remains of a melody after a concert? nothing but the recollection. Poesy may excite admiration in the retirement of one's chamber; your nostrils are, as it were, reposing on the bouquet, though often you have still a difficulty in smelling anything. But if once you give life to canvas, it is eternal."
"Eternal is scarcely the proper word," remarked Wolston: "the celebrated fresco of Leonardo da Vinci, in the refectory of the Dominicans at Milan, is nothing but a confused mass of colors and figures."
"I answer that by saying that the painting in question is only a fresco. Besides, I use the word eternal in a modified or relative sense. A painting is preserved from generation to generation, whilst its successive races of admirers are mingled with the dust. Then suppose a painter in his studio; he cannot look around him without awakening some memory of the past. He can associate with those he loves when they are absent, nay, even when they are dead, and they always remain young and beautiful as when he first delineated them."
"Take care," cried Ernest, pushing back his seat, "if you go on at that rate you will take fire."
"No fear of that, brother, unless you have a star or a comet in your pocket, in which case you are not far enough away yet."
These occasional bickerings between Ernest and Jack were always given and taken in good part, and had only the effect of raising a good-humored laugh.
"Let the painter," he continued, "fall in with a spot that pleases him, he can take it with him and have it always before his eyes. The hand of God or of man may alter the original, the forest may lose its trees, the old castle may be destroyed by fire or time, the green meadow may be converted into a dismal swamp, but to him the landscape always retains its pristine freshness, the same butterfly still flutters about the same bush, the same bee still sucks at the same flower."
"Really," said Mrs. Wolston, "it is a pity, after all, that you did not achieve your second verse."
"And yet," continued Jack, "that is only a copy. How much more sublime when we regard the painter as a creator! If there is in the past or present a heroic deed—if there is in the infinity of his life one moment more blessed than another, like Pygmalion he breathes into it the breath of life, and it becomes imperishable. Who would think a century or two hence of the victories of Fritz, unless the skill of the painter be called in to immortalize them!"
"I agree with you in thinking that the arts you name are the source of beautiful and legitimate emotions. But generally it is better to view them as a recreation or pastime, rather than a profession. They have doubtless made a few men live in posterity, but, on the other hand, they have embittered and shortened the lives of thousands."
"You will never guess what led me to adopt this art in preference to the two others. It was the discovery, that we made some years ago, of a gum tree, the name of which I do not recollect."
"The myrica cerifera," said Ernest.
"From the gum of this tree the varnish may be made. Now, like my brother, who, when he sees the sun overhead, considers he ought to profit by the circumstance and become a discoverer, so I said to myself: You have varnish, all you want, therefore, to produce a magnificent painting is canvas, colors, and talent; consequently, you must not allow such an opportunity to pass—it would be unpardonable. Accordingly, I set to work with an energy never before equalled; and," added he, showing the design he had just finished, "here are two eyes and a nose, that I do not think want expression."
"Capital!" said Mrs. Wolston; "your painting will be in admirable keeping with the hangings my daughters have promised to work for your mamma."
"Nobody can deny," continued Jack, laughing, "that the colony is advancing in civilization; it already possesses a conqueror, a member of the Royal Society minus the diploma, and an Apelles in embryo."
"It is now your turn, Frank."
"I," replied Frank, in his mild but penetrating voice, "if I may be allowed to liken the flowers of the garden to the occupations of human life, I should prefer the part of the violet."
"It hides itself," said Mrs. Wolston, "but its presence is not the less felt."
"When I have allowed myself to indulge in dreams of the future, I have pictured myself dwelling in a modest cottage, partially shrouded in ivy, not very far from the village church. My coat is a little threadbare."
"Why threadbare?" inquired Sophia.
"Because there are a number of very poor people all round me, and I cannot make up my mind to lay out money on myself when it is wanted by them."
"Such a coat would be sacred in our eyes," said Mrs. Wolston.
"In the morning I take a walk in my little garden; I inspect the flowers one after the other; chide my dog, who is not much of a florist; then, perhaps, I retire to my study, where I am always ready to receive those who may require my aid, my advice, or my personal services."
Here Mrs. Wolston shook Frank very warmly by the hand.
"Sometimes I go amongst the laborers in the fields, talk to them of the rain, of the fine weather, and of HIM who gives both. I enter the home of the artizan, cheer him in his labors, and interest myself in the affairs of his family; I call the children by their names, caress them, and make them my friends. I talk to them of our Redeemer, and thus, in familiarly conversing with the young, I find means of instructing the old. They, perhaps, tell me of a sick neighbor; I direct my steps there, and endeavor to mitigate the pangs of disease by words of consolation and hope; I strive to pour balm on the wounded spirit, and, if the mind has been led away by the temptations of the world, I urge repentance as a means of grace. If death should step in, then I kneel with those around, and join them in soliciting a place amongst the blessed for the departed soul."
"We shall all gladly aid you in such labors of love," said Mrs. Wolston.
"When death has deprived a family of its chief support, then I appeal to those whom God has blessed with the things of this world for the means of assisting the widow and the fatherless. To one I say, 'You regret having no children, or bemoan those you have lost; here are some that God has sent you.' I say to another, 'You have only one child, whilst you have the means of supporting ten; you can at least charge yourself with two.' Thus I excite the charity of some and the pity of others, till the bereaved family is provided for. I obtain work for those that are desirous of earning an honest living, I bring back to the fold the sheep that are straying, and rescue those that are tottering on the brink of infidelity."
Here the girls came forward and volunteered to assist Frank in such works of mercy.
"I accept your proffered aid, my dear girls, but, as yet, I am only picturing a future career for myself. After a day devoted to such labors as these, I return to my home, perhaps to be welcomed by a little circle of my own, for I hope to be received as a minister of the Protestant Church, and, as such, may look forward to a partner in my joys and troubles. Should Providence, however, shape my destiny otherwise, I shall have the poor and afflicted—always a numerous family—to bestow my affections upon. But, whilst much of my time is thus passed amongst the sorrowing and the sick, still there are hours of gaiety amongst the gloom—there are weddings, christenings, and merrymakings—there are happy faces to greet me as well as sad ones—and I am no ascetic. I take part in all the innocent amusements that are not inconsistent with my years or the gravity of my profession—but you seem sad, Mrs. Wolston."
"Yes, Frank; you have recalled my absent son, Richard, so vividly to my memory, that I cannot help shedding a tear."
"Is your son in orders then, madam?"
"He is precisely what you have pictured yourself to be, a minister of the gospel, and a most exemplary young man."
"If," remarked Becker, "we have hitherto refrained from inquiring after your son, madam, it was because we had no wish to recall to your mind the distance that separated you from him, and we should be glad to know his history."
"There is little to relate; he is very young yet, and as soon as he had obtained his ordination, he was offered a mission to Oregon, which he accepted; but the ship having been detained at the Cape of Good Hope, he regarded the accident as a divine message, to convert the heathen of Kafraria, where he now is."
"It is no sinecure to live amongst these copper-colored rascals," said Willis; "they are constantly stealing the cattle of the Dutch settlers in their neighborhood. About twelve years ago, our ship was stationed at the Cape, and I was sent with a party of blue jackets into the interior, as far as Fort Wiltshire, on the Krieskamma, the most remote point of the British possessions in South Africa. There we dispersed a cloud of them that had been for weeks living upon other people's property. They are tall, wiry fellows, as hardy as a pine tree, and as daring as buccaneers. The chief of the kraals, or huts, wear leopard or panther skins, and profess to have the power of causing rain to fall, besides an endless number of other miraculous attributes. Amongst them, a wife of the ordinary class costs eight head of cattle, but the price of a young lady of the higher ranks runs as high as twenty cows. When a Kafir is suspected of a crime, his tongue is touched seven times with hot iron, and if it is not burnt he is declared innocent."
"I am afraid," said Jack, "if they were all subjected to that test, they would be found to be a very bad lot. But now, since we have all decided upon a profession, let us hear what the young ladies intend doing with themselves; let them consult their imagination for a beautiful future gilded with sunshine, and embroidered with gold."
"There is only one occupation for women," said Mrs. Becker, "and that is too well defined to admit of speculation, and too important to admit of fanciful embellishments."
"Well, then, mother, let us hear what it is."
"It is to nurse you, and rear you, when you are unable to help yourselves; to guide your first steps, and teach you to lisp your first syllables. For this purpose, God has given her qualities that attract sympathy and engender love. She is so constituted as to impart a charm to your lives, to share in your labors, to soothe you when you are ruffled, to smooth your pillow when you are in pain, and to cherish you in old age; bestowing upon you, to your last hour, cares that no other love could yield. These, gentlemen, are the duties and occupations of women; and you must admit, that if it is not our province to command armies, or to add new planets to the galaxy of the firmament; that if we have not produced an Iliad or an AEnead, a Jerusalem Delivered, or a Paradise Lost, an Oratorio of the Creation, a Transfiguration, or a Laocoon, we have not the less our modest utility."
"I should think so, mother," replied Jack; "it would take no end of philosophers to do the work of one of you."
"It surprises me," said Willis, "that not one of you has selected the finest profession in the world—that of a sailor."
"The finest profession of the sea, you mean, Willis. There is no doubt of its being the finest that can be exercised on the ocean, since it is the only one. If it is the best, Willis, it is also the worst."
"It has also produced great men," continued Willis; "there are Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Captain Cook, to whom you are indebted for a new world."
"No thanks to them for that," said Jack; "if they had not discovered a new world we should have been in an old one."
"That does not follow," remarked Ernest; "the new world would have existed even if it had not been discovered, and you might have found your way there all the same."
"Not very likely," replied Jack, "unless one of the stars you intend to discover had shown us the way; otherwise it would only have existed in conjecture; and as nobody under such circumstances would have dreamt of settling in it, they would not have been shipwrecked during the voyage."
"Very true," remarked Fritz; "if we had not been here we should, very probably, have been somewhere else, and perhaps in a much worse plight. Let me ask if there is any one here who regrets his present position?"
Willis was about to reply to this question, but Sophia observing that there was something wrong with the handkerchief that he wore round his neck, hastened towards him to put it to rights, and he was silent.
The hour had now arrived when the families separated for the night. Mary was preparing as usual to recite the evening prayer, but before doing so she whispered a few words in her mother's ear.
"Yes, my child;" and, turning to Frank, she added, "Since you are determined to adopt the ministry as a profession, it is but right that we should for the future entrust ourselves to your prayers."
The two families were now located in their respective eyries; and Jack, whilst escorting the Wolstons to the foot of their tree, said to Sophia,
"I thought the chimpanzee had been playing some prank."
"So he has. Has nobody told you of it?"
"No, not a soul."
"Then I will be as discreet as my neighbors; good night, Master Jack."
HERBERT AND CECILIA—THE LITTLE ANGELS—A CATASTROPHE—THE DEPARTURE—MARRIAGE OF THE DOGE WITH THE ADRIATIC—SOVEREIGNS OF THE SEA—DANTE AND BEATRIX—ELEONORA AND TASSO—LAURA AND PETRARCH—THE RETURN—SURPRISES—WHAT ONE FINDS IN TURBOTS—A HORROR—THE PRICE OF CRIME—BALLOONING—PHILIPSON AND THE CHOLERA—A METAMORPHOSIS—ADVENTURE OF THE CHIMPANZEE—ARE YOU RICH?
Next day the sky was shrouded in dense masses of cloud, some grey as lead, some livid as copper, and some black as ink. Towards evening the two families, as usual, resolved themselves into a talking party, and Wolston, requesting them to listen, began as follows:—
"There were two rich merchants in Bristol, between whom a very close intimacy had for a long time existed. One of them, whom I shall call Henry Foster, had a daughter; and the other, Nicholas Philipson, had a son, and the two fathers had destined these children for one another. The boy was a little older than the girl, and their tastes, habits, and dispositions seemed to fit them admirably for each other, and so to ratify the decision of the parents. Little Herbert and Cecilia were almost constantly together. They had a purse in common, into which they put all the pieces of bright gold they received as presents on birthdays and other festive occasions. In summer, when the two families retired to a retreat that one of them had in the country, the children were permitted to visit the cottagers, and to assist the distressed, if they chose, out of their own funds—a permission which they availed themselves of so liberally that they were called by the country people the two little angels."
"What a pity there are no poor people here!" said Sophia, dolefully.
"Why?" inquired her mother.
"Because we might assist them, mamma."
"It is much better, however, as it is, my child; our assistance might mitigate the evils of poverty, but might not be sufficient to remove them."
This reasoning did not seem conclusive to Sophia, who shook her head and commenced plying her wheel with redoubled energy.
"When Herbert Philipson was twelve years of age he was sent off to school, and Cecilia was confided to the care of a governess, who, under the direction of Mrs. Foster, was to undertake her education. But neither music nor drawing, needlework, grammars nor exercises, could make little Cecilia forget her absent companion. Absence, that cools older friendships, had a contrary effect on her heart; the months, weeks, days, and hours that were to elapse before Herbert returned for the holidays, were counted and recounted. When that period—so anxiously desired—at length arrived, there was no end of rejoicing: she told Herbert of all the little boys and little girls she had clothed and fed, of the old people she had relieved, of the tears she had shed over tales of woe and misery, how she had carried every week a little basket covered with a white napkin to widow Robson, how often she had gone into the damp and dismal cottage of the dying miner, and how happy she always made his wife and their nine pitiful looking children."
"That is a way of conquering human hearts," remarked Mrs. Becker, "often more effective than those referred to the other day."
"Once, when Herbert was at home for the holidays, he accompanied Cecilia on her charitable visits, and was greatly surprised to find that blessings were showered upon his own head wherever they went; people, whom he had never seen before, insisted upon his being their benefactor. This he could not make out. At last, by an accident, he discovered the secret—Cecilia had been distributing her gifts in his name! He remonstrated warmly against this, declaring that he had no wish to be praised and blessed for doing things that he had no hand in. Finding that his protestations were of no avail, he determined, on the eve of his returning to school, to have his revenge."
"He did not buy Cecilia a doll, did he?" inquired Jack.
"No; he collected all the eatables, clothing, blankets, and money he could obtain; went amongst the poorest of the cottages, and distributed the whole in Cecilia's name."
"Ah," remarked Mrs. Becker, "it is a pity we could not all remain at the age of these children, with the same purity, the same innocence, and the same freshness of sensation; the world would then be a veritable Paradise."
"For some years this state of things continued, the affection between the young people strengthened as they grew older, the occasional holiday time was always the happiest of their lives. Herbert, in due course, was transferred from school to college, where he obtained a degree, and rapidly verged into manhood. Cecilia from the girl at length bloomed into the young lady. A day was finally fixed when they were to be bound together by the holy ties of the church; everything was prepared for their union, when the commercial world was startled by the announcement that Philipson was a ruined man. A ship in which he had embarked a valuable freight had been wrecked, and an agent to whom he had entrusted a large sum of money had suddenly disappeared."
"How deplorable!" cried Fritz.
"Not so very unfortunate, after all," remarked Mary.
"What makes you think so?"
"Because nothing had occurred to interrupt the marriage; only one of the families was ruined, and there was still enough left for both."
"But," said Fritz, "even admitting that the friendship between the two families continued uninterrupted, and that the father of Cecilia was willing to share his property with the father of Herbert, still the young man, in the parlance of society, was a beggar; and it is always hard for a man to owe his position to a woman, and to become, as it were, the protege of her whom he ought rather to protect."
"If that is the view you take, Master Fritz, then I agree with you that the misfortune was deplorable," said Mary, bending at the same time to hide her blushes, under pretence of mending a broken thread.
"And what if Cecilia's father had been ruined instead of Herbert's?" inquired Jack.
"I should say," replied Sophia, "that we have as much right to be proud and dignified as you have."
"The best way in such a case," observed Willis, laughing, "would be for both parties to get ruined together."